Report: Technology enhanced learning as a site for interdisciplinary research

Team: Gráinne Conole, Eileen Scanlon, Paul Mundin and Rob Farrow

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Gráinne Conole
21 April 2010

The aim of this research was to explore if there is anything specific about interdisciplinarity in a Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) research context, and to identify strategies for supporting, communicating and documenting interdisciplinarity. In particular, we were interested in what interdisciplinary working might bring to multi-discipline research teams to help them address challenges that are too broad or too complex to be solved by a single discipline. The project set out to explore what disciplines contribute to research into Technology Enhanced Learning, to document their cognate disciplines and to elicit their diverse epistemological beliefs, methodologies and approaches. It also set out to identify the main research challenges for interdisciplinary teams.

The research consisted of three main activities.

  • Firstly, Robert Farrow carried out a literature review of interdisciplinarity in general, and more specifically research into Technology Enhanced Learning.
  • Secondly, broader consultation with the TEL-research community was conducted through two online fora. The first was as part of a series of ‘hotseats’ associated with the Networked Learning conference. A positional paper on methodological issues in Networked Learning was used as a starting point for the discussion, along with a series of questions, including a number specifically around interdisciplinarity in TEL research. The paper and associated discussions can be found here (http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/index.php/forum/forum?id=8). In parallel a similar set of questions was posed on the social networking site, Cloudworks (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloudscape/view/1954).
  • Thirdly, eighteen interviews were conducted with senior researchers within the field. The interviews were conducted and initially analysed by Paul Mundin. The following methodology was used to identify, gather, analyse and report on the information from the set of interviews. The initial set of questions arose from the discussions on the Networked Learning hot-seat forum and the discussion on the Cloudworks site, and from themes emerging from the literature review. The questions were constructed to explore an interviewee’s experience in interdisciplinarity, and the nature of interdisciplinarity both for research more generally construed, and specifically in Technology Enhanced Learning

A draft of the report is attached, we would welcome comments.

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added by Gráinne Conole